Starting on Aug. 2, the Metropolitan Transit Authority will cut off R train service between Bay Ridge and Manhattan for more than a year to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy. But short-term relief is in store for Aug. 5, with a one-month trial of ferry service from 58th Street in Sunset Park.
The MTA announced in June that the Montague Street tunnel — which connects the R line from Brooklyn to Manhattan — is in such bad shape from the storm that it will shut down for 14 months for repairs. The agency said that Sandy’s salt surge corroded the electronics in the tunnel. The two months the tunnel was closed immediately following the storm was not enough to fix all the damage.
“Even after we restored service through the tubes again, signal and other component failures rose dramatically,” said chairman Thomas Prendergast.
During the closure period, commuter trains will terminate at Court Street, where riders heading to downtown Manhattan can switch for free to the 4 or 5 train. On weekends, the R train will run over the Manhattan Bridge into Manhattan, following the N line’s path into Manhattan.
The R is the only train that services Bay Ridge, and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge) and state Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge) have both called for ferry service between the Southern Brooklyn and Manhattan to compensate for the loss.
This week the New York City Economic Development Corporation — the semi-public agency that serves as the city’s liaison to business — has arranged to have the Seastreak ferry that runs from Rockaway to the Financial District make a stop at 58th Street in Brooklyn to pick up Manhattan-bound commuters.
The boat will offer a $2, 15-minute trip to Wall Street for R riders facing a painful switch to the 4 or 5 trains at Court Street during the construction on the tunnel. The first ferry will stop at 58th Street at 6:20 am, and run every hour until 10 am. The boat will stop first at Wall Street, then at East 34th Street. Returning boats will launch from Manhattan from 4 pm until 8 pm.
But the convenience may be short-lived. The ferry service will begin Aug. 5 — three days after the tunnel closes — and last until Labor Day. The city will then assess if ridership is high enough to justify continuing the service — and, if not, it will end. Electeds urged commuters to use the ferry to keep the service from sinking.
Ferry service from 58th Street — which took commuters into the city following 9-11 and during the 2005 transit strike — last ran in 2010, when it was discontinued because of lack of funding.